The House of Creed

 

THE HOUSE OF CREED

Creed. A label of luxury. A scent of decadence. The entry to a world of opulence, previously known only to royals and the European cultural elite.

Today, I want to introduce you to one of the most impressive independent perfumeries of our time: The House of Creed, and their suite of fragrances, including the revolutionary Creed Aventus.

Let me take you back to 1760. Britain opens its first cotton mill; James Cook departs for the Pacific; Handel’s ‘Messiah’ makes its public debut and the Boston Tea Party resembles anything but a pleasant tea party. The Baroque period brought us ornate art, detail beyond belief, and thus it is most apt that a small English tailoring establishment is opened by James Henry Creed in 1760 England. Counting only the most haute of the bourgeoisie as their clients — think Count d’Orsay, Queen Victoria and the Bishop of Paris — the Creed label quickly became synonymous with only garments and clients of the finest echelon. Renown for using only the finest of materials, stellar craftsmanship and exemplary customer service to the cultural elite, it’s clear that Creed was to take a strong footing in the rapidly growing world of style and grace.

Moving to Paris, and to the affluent seizième arrondissement, currently home to Fondation Louis Vuitton, Parc des Princes and New York University’s Paris campus, The House of Creed found its niche in being a high quality independent boutique, and thus from promising nascent beginnings it grew.

Inspired by the scent of masculine, leather gloves, Creed began creating perfumes in house, offering an eau de cologne alongside its tailoring articles. With a strong focus on sourcing only the best ingredients, irrespective of geographical distance or their difficulty to obtain, Creed found niche success with many of its scents. Scents like Fleurissimo, the scent made especially for Grace Kelly when she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and others like Ambre Cannelle, Cuir de Russie and Royal English Leather began to find a niche in the market, for the sophisticated gentleman looking for a stronger, hand-produced scent. No matter what the fragrance, Creed focused on creating for its consumer, and always with a touch of luxury and extravagance.

One scent which established this image particularly well was Creed’s 1985 fragrance, Green Irish Tweed. Drawing a cult-like following, with celebrities such as George Clooney, Ozzy Osborne and even Naomi Campbell reportedly sporting the sandalwood-violet-iris and lemon number, it’s clear that Creed’s approach to the art of perfumery clearly resonated with the global market. True to its motto, De Père En Fils Depuis Mille Sept Cent Soixante, Creed continued its perfume production in its on-site laboratory, and even now is still in the hands of its fifth and sixth generation of sons. With father Olivier Creed and son Erwin Creed at the helm, the duo grew Creed to a brand of 79 commercial fragrances in ten Creed boutiques situated around globe, including stores in Paris, London, New York, Sydney, Milan and Dubai. But how did this tiny perfume house outgrow its humble beginnings, and expand to a multinational offering? The answer lies in a little word called Aventus.

Aventus. According to its branding, it evokes a memory of ‘lost empires, far distant lands and exotic ambitions’. It’s an ode to the qualities of ‘virility, power, strength and vision’, and a scent which is ‘challenging, masculine, optimistic and thrusting’; the ‘ultimate experience for the modern man who builds on the legacy of the ages to develop his own unique and successful lifestyle’. A name meaning ‘success’. It’s a tantalising image, is it not?

Described as a ‘sensual, audacious and contemporary’ scent for ‘the modern and discerning gentleman’, Aventus has become synonymous with the luxury man, with an eye for fine detail and a taste in life’s higher pleasures. Evocative and versatile, this is a scent which you will never forget, and those who are fortunate enough to be graced by your presence, will certainly never forget either. Retailing at 280 pounds for 100ml, it sure bears a memorable price tag compared to similar fragrances. But there’s no fun in discussing that. Let’s talk about the thinking behind the fragrance.

Taking inspiration from Napoleon Bonaparte, the fearless conquerer, a self-crowned emperor, champion of meritocracy, equality rights, education and anti-feudalism, Aventus is a chypre scent first launched to celebrate Creed’s 250th anniversary in 2010. Chypre, of course, named after the middle eastern nation of Cyprus, is a family of scents characterised by a citrus top note, cysts labdanum middle note, and a base note derived from oakmoss. You might recognise other varietals of the chypre scent: the fruity Y by Yves Saint Laurent, the more floral number Calèche by Hermès, or perhaps the ever-popular fresh-citric fragrance, CK One by Calvin Klein. Aventus itself features several floral modifiers, but you won’t find it categorised as a floral scent. Just like how the strength of the modern man is grounded in not only his power but his sensitivity; Aventus really does explore all layers of modern masculinity, or perhaps more broadly, the depth of the human condition.

I want to share scent notes with you now, as I think this is one of Aventus’ most interesting features, and a true embodiment of the House of Creed’s philosophy.

For those who have not been greeted by Aventus, it’s a dense and sophisticated blend, built upon base notes of moss and vanilla. Creed have already put a lot of research into its signature vanilla scent, Creed Sublime Vanille, so expect it to have a strong and stable base. The richness of the moss — you’ll notice it as that brooding, alluring note — is something that has been highly contentious over the years, with changing EU laws capping the maximum concentration of the oil. Although this has resulted in the discontinuation of several of Creed’s mossier scents, Aventus lives on. A testament to Napoleon’s ‘never say die’ attitude, one might suppose.

To the middle note now. Aventus’ predominant middle note is the famous Louisiana birch, extracted from the very state of Napoleon’s global reign. Parfumier Olivier Creed tried to use ingredients with strong connection to the emperor, a fact which I absolutely adore. By itself, one might call the Louisiana birch one of those unremarkable plants, characterised by papery, copper-coloured bark, small male and female flowers, and fruits binged upon by birds in the springtime. But placed as the middle layer of this fragrant, and suddenly the scent becomes alive with depth, that traditional woody scent, that smoky, flavourful body. It’s the layering which really does it for me.

When it comes to the top notes, this is where Monsieur Olivier really toys with us. The official top notes are classified by blackcurrant, bergamot and pineapple. Blackcurrant, the fruit of Corsica, of course — the Napoleon’s place of birth. I’d like to place particular emphasis on the pineapple here — traditionally one of the more pungent scents, reminiscent of cliched tropical holidays or perhaps a sweeter reminder of past summers with young lovers, works masterfully in tandem with the vanilla base I spoke to you about previously. Many wearers of Aventus will note that this top note is quick wearing, and that the beauty of the scent truly develops once the top note begins to fade, and the harder wearing base begins to interact with the skin. For some, the pineapple note’s half-life takes longer to expire, for others the fresh fruit note dissipates quickly. But this is the beauty of a bottom-focussed fragrance. It dances on your skin, as we all dance differently around a summertime bonfire. The overall memory, however, is one which lasts long into the night and early hours of morning, or in the case of this eau de parfum, typically 8 to 36 hours.

Being the product of a small perfumerie, you’ll find critics denounce the variation between batches. Whether due to micro adjustments in formula, different means of storage, or seasonal variation of local ingredients, I see this less of an issue of permanence or quality control. Remember that Creed is a family-owned perfume house. Erwin Creed speaks of his job much like a chef speaks of their creations — we create experiences, unrepeatable in its absolute essence, the product of hand and love and the ever-changing environments around us. Avid collectors of Aventus report buying multiple bottles of the fragrance, to capture all moments of the developing ‘heritage’. Who could forget the sought after 2016 crop, or perhaps the early 2012 edition, or even the 2020 ten year anniversary collection. There is so much beauty which comes from a changing scent; my advice is to embrace the process. Life is a journey of fluctuation and change; let your fragrance reflect the many changing shades of you.

Of course, alongside the criticisms of bottle-to-bottle fluctuation and varied longevity of scent comes Aventus’ main criticism: its cost. I told you that Aventus, Creed’s most popular and most expensive scent, retails from its global store at 280 pounds for a 100ml spray bottle. If we do the maths, this works out to be just under 20p per spray. Not a faint scent, and not a price for the faint hearted, I can assure you. Whether this price point is the modern day gatekeeper to the visage of exclusivity, or just another way for the nouveau riche to flaunt their wealth, for good or for regrettable reasons it has found itself as quite the status symbol. Reportedly worn by everyone who’s something, from Eric Stonestreet to Kodak Black, David Beckham and The Rock, it’s now available globally with stockists in almost all of the major cities.

For those who enjoy the scent but are yearning for less full-bodied edit, it’s worth noting that Aventus also comes in a cologne form, for those who long for a fresher version of the scent, as well as an eau de parfum for women. Featured alongside a wider Aventus beauty range, including an accompanying shower gel, body lotion, body oil and soap, the fragrance adopts the same aspirational branding with a similar wood fragrance note. Released in 2016 to strong commercial acclaim, the fragrance features top notes of patchouli, green apple, lemon, bergaot, pink pepper and violet, sitting atop heart notes of rose, styrax, sandalwood and musk. Its base is constructed upon flavours of peach, blackcurrant, ylang-ylang, lilac and amber. Reminiscent of the fruity and woody masculine scent we’ve come to love, but with stronger floral overtones and a lighter overall body. The Aventus machine doesn’t stop there; for the smaller humans amongst us, Creed Pour Enfants, an alcohol-free spray, retails at 130 pounds for a 100ml spray bottle. Given Creed’s astronomic rise to acclaim via this landmark scent, I don’t think we can really blame them for extending the Aventus product line as broadly as they have.

So I suppose the question remains. Is Aventus really worth it, or by extension, any of the fragrances released by the House of Creed? Are consumers ultimately paying 280 pounds for 100ml of hypermasculine branding, a French family history, and the ability to boast of an ingredient list sourced from the farthest corners of the globe? Of course, like all trademark scents, I’m sure you can find a replica, or a similar scent to Aventus, or any of the other Creed perfumes. But perhaps the real attraction of Aventus, Sublime Vanille, Green Irish Tweed and others lies not in their similar ability to exude a sense of sophistication, social exclusivity and charm, but perhaps in the nexus of the brand itself. Creed is a family owned label. It always has been a mark of quality, an opposition to the mass produced and synthetic scents of modernity. Think less of the aspirational benefits, although those are clearly a redeeming benefit of the brand, but more about the little maman and papa who sought to provide unique scents to their most illustrious of friends. We all want to have our own unique scent. Creed on your own particular skin might be just precisely that.